Nurture in Nature Bush Playgroup and Family Nature Club Wrap Up #2 – Camperdown Botanic Gardens

Session Name: Exploring the Camperdown Botanic Gardens
Session Date:   Saturday 22nd November 2014
Session Location: Camperdown Botanic Gardens, Park Rd, Camperdown VIC

One of my own family’s very favourite places to visit in Corangamite is the lovely Camperdown Botanic Gardens.

It’s an incredibly beautiful place and is set in what I think is one of the most amazing settings in the world: where else could you see a Botanic Gardens perched high atop a hill between two vast and incredible volcanic lakes?nin-bpfnc-camperdownbotanicgardens4

Not only is it beautiful and a site of historical, botanical and aesthetic significance for our area, but through the eyes of children we have the chance to see and experience it as a wonderland to explore and play.

So as a location and a backdrop, Camperdown’s Botanic Gardens couldn’t be more perfect for one of our Nurture in Nature Bush Playgroup and Family Nature Club sessions.

It was a good turn out for the session in the lead up to a busy pre-Christmas period, with a total of 15 participants (10 Kids and 5 Adults) from 5 Families. The children were aged from 18 months to 6 years.

When we arrived, we talked for a few moments about the very rare and special Woollemi Pine being a “Dinosaur Tree” because it was once thought to have been extinct. In the eyes of the kids, the tree now WAS a dinosaur that had come back from the dead.

It’s also a brilliant tree for kids (young and old) to clamber over, under and around; to practice their balancing skills; to problem solve how to get from here to there without touching the ground; to test their mettle and to learn to assess risks for themselves as they do.


And as the kids discovered, it’s also perfectly perfect for hanging and chattering like monkeys  – or sloths to be more precise on this occasion – from it’s wide and sprawling low branches.  

Today the gardens also became a place to make “Wombat Stew” out of sticks, leaves and dirt. They inspired a renactment of “Hansel and Gretel”; became a canvas for making some “nature art” and turned into a “fairy forest with wild woods at the far far end where wolves might live”. Along the way the play evolved naturally into a hearty game of hide and seek set in the many nooks, crannies and simply perfect hiding places that the gardens offer.

From time to time the kids would take the chance to refuel briefly with a quick snack stop, then it was straight back to playing!


An important aim for our group is to encourage families to engage in free, unstructured play in nature, and parents/carers are gently encouraged to take a step back and let the kids make their own first discoveries and lead the way in their play and exploration.

It’s truly a gift to see the imagination, creativity, wonder, awe and natural learning that happens before your eyes when we give the children the chance to lead the play. The kids initiated and participated in their games with great gusto and as the adults we were the observers. When invited and encouraged, we also became the players … how easy it is as adults to sometimes simply ‘forget’ to play, and who on earth could resist an invitation to tea to sample the delicious Wombat Stew? Certainly not I!

wombat stew

A 2011 Planet Ark Study entitled Climbing Trees: Getting Aussie Kids Back Outside, found that

 One in ten Aussie kids play outside once a week or less.

In their 2013 Report, Missing Trees: The Inside Story Of An Outdoor Nation, Planet Ark reported that

 Just over 1 in 4 children (27%) have never climbed a tree,
28% have never planted or cared for a vegetable garden
and nearly 1 in 3 (31%) have never planted or cared for trees or shrubs.

Engaging young children and their families in nature play is a vital element in helping children to grow into happy, healthy, resilient, confident and capable adults. It’s also imperative that we are facilitating those connections with nature from an early age to ensure that we are nurturing future guardians and advocates for the health and well being of the natural world.


The statistics from the Planet Ark Reports are marked and worrying changes from what kids were doing even just one generation ago, but the tide is turning and there are some fantastic programs, initiatives, resources and groups that can help us to reconnect our kids – and ourselves – with nature.

At Nurture in Nature Bush Playgroup and Family Nature Club we help to provide opportunities and encouragement for Corangamite families to get outside and connect with nature and with each other, and along the way families are making lots of cherished memories together too! 

The Camperdown Botanic Gardens and the Friends of the Camperdown Botanic Gardens group also provide wonderful opportunities to help facilitate and nurture those connections, and I always encourage our groups’ families connect with their local nature and environmental based groups and get involved with their activities.

All of the families attending the session had been up to the Gardens in the past, but most of the parents stated that “we don’t come up here often enough”. They commented that it was nice to meet and hang out in a relaxed group environment with other families, get outdoors together with their own family and to explore our areas great natural places.


We’re taking a short break over the Christmas and New Year period and the families are looking forward to meeting up again in January with our first session at the lovely Lake Bullen Merri South Beach.

If you want to find out more about our Nurture in Nature Bush Playgroup and Family Nature Club, please visit

Until next time, make sure you get out into the great outdoors and have some fun!

Tania Moloney
Nurture in Nature

Telephone: 0409843965


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